SACRAMENTO, CA — Many California auto dealers are using the Internet to license and title vehicles directly at the dealership.

That is possible through a Business Partner Automation Program of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Paperwork is processed at the dealership and document information is sent electronically to the state department. “The vehicles are plated and ready to go,” Lynn Hidley, deputy director of the department's registration operation, says of the 1-stop convenience.

Four service providers facilitate the electronic information transfers. Interfacing with the motor vehicle department's aging system was a challenge, says Rob Cohen, president of Auto Advisory Services, one of the service providers.

“It was like trying to hook a fire hose up to a garden hose,” he says.

The surcharge for the electronic transactions is $3, and dealers are permitted to charge an additional $25 for handling the e-documentation, says Hidley giving a program update at the California New Motor Vehicle Board's annual roundtable here.

Alan Skobin, a board member and vice president at Galpin Automotive Group in North Hills, CA, says California doesn't allow its dealers to charge enough.

He notes some states let dealers charge up to $500 in fees for title, registration and license work. California law caps such fees at $45.

“It costs more than that to process the work,” says Skobin.

George Valverde, director of California's motor vehicles department, says he is committed to further streamlining operations and creating a more customer-friendly, modern DMV.

“One goal is a new website feature every 120 days to make our site more interactive,” he says.

The department expects to archive 5 million online vehicle registrations this year, “but that is relatively small considering the number of cars in California,” Valverde says.

There are about 30 million vehicles in operation in California, by far the nation's leader, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Admin.

Another database upgrade by the California agency now allows law enforcement officers to check electronically to see if a motorist's vehicle insurance is active, Hidley says.

Paper documents, carried by drivers and intended to show proof of insurance, fail to show if coverage has been cancelled before the expiration date for non-payment of premiums.